Category Archives: 2016 S.C.

An illustration of the advantage of incumbency

Susan Brill, Senate candidate, watches as members of the Richland County delegation call on RCRC members to resign.

Senate candidate Susan Brill, left, watches as members of the Richland County delegation call on RCRC members to resign.

You hear tell of the advantage that incumbents enjoy over challengers in elections, and here is a prime example.

This morning, I went to the presser (which I’ll post about separately after this) where several members of the Richland County legislative delegation called on the worst five members of the Richland County Recreation Commission to resign.

You’ll recall that Mia McLeod did the same alone on Monday, and got good coverage for it (Mia was not present today, but signed the letter along with three other lawmakers who couldn’t make it).

Looking very alone standing back behind the assembled TV cameras, watching the proceedings, was Susan Brill, Rep. McLeod’s Republican opponent in the race for the seat Sen. Joel Lourie is giving up.

She told me after that she agreed with what the lawmakers were doing: “I think their action is appropriate, and long overdue.” But the fact that she is not the incumbent, and therefore not a member of the delegation, relegated her to the status of spectator at the event.

Could she call a press conference of her own? Sure. Would it be as well attended as this one was, or as Mia’s was Monday? Probably not. They are legislators; she is not. She showed her interest by showing up, though. (Of course, Mia isn’t the incumbent in the particular office she and Susan are seeking, but she’s in the House, which is almost as good.)

I didn’t see any of the other media types talking to her afterward. They were busy talking to an employee of the commission who had attended and thanked the lawmakers (who I missed talking to because I was talking with Susan and the lawmakers). But I could have missed it…

Tem Miles, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem Miles came in second in the GOP primary for S.C. House District 89 Tuesday. He got 25 percent of the vote to Micah Caskey’s 36 percent. (Those percentages are from a tiny turnout — Caskey got 1,026 actual votes, and Miles got 717.)

But he’s already gotten a boost in the runoff on June 28. Bill Banning, the former Lexington county councilman who came in third with 21 percent, has endorsed Miles, based on his belief that “experience matters.”

That’s a reference to the fact that between the two young attorneys, Miles is the only one to have held elective office previously. In fact, as a West Columbia city councilman, Miles is the veteran of some pretty unpleasant confrontations with former Mayor Joe Owens. He was re-elected last year.

Miles also cites other experience, serving in two of the state’s three branches of government. The Citadel grad formerly clerked for Appeals Court judge Paul. E. Short Jr., and served as attorney for the Office of Senate Research. Today, he’s in private practice with the McKay Firm.

His list of goals if elected, as listed on his website, are pretty similar to those cited by his opponent, and not appreciably more detailed:

Tem Goals

Since it was the item that interested me most (hey, you want something other than that, go to some other blog!), I asked him what he meant by “reforming state government,” noting that the few words he had about it on his website suggested he was mostly talking about ethics reform.Tem Miles

But his notion of “reform,” it turns out, is much broader and to the point than that. In fact, he defines it pretty much the way I do.

Turns out that, although he was probably in middle school when my “Power Failure” project ran in the paper in 1991, he seems to have absorbed its main lessons from somewhere.

So, like Arlo Guthrie and the other fellas on the Group W bench, we just had a high ol’ time talking about the Legislative State, special purpose districts, judicial selection, co-equal branches of government, and all kinds of groovy things that would probably make your eyes glaze over — but which are the very things a lawmaker should care about if he’s running on RE-form.

Some high points from that discussion:

  • He would turn more real power over “to our governor” — although he hastened to add that he didn’t specifically mean this governor, just governors in the future. Bottom line, the executive branch must be more empowered in other to be a co-equal branch with the dominant Legislature.
  • He would empower the judiciary in part by giving it a set percentage of the state budget to run on, rather than judges having to go begging to the Legislature for funding.
  • He would further free the judiciary from the legislative branch by changing the method of judicial selection, which now lies completely in the hands of lawmakers. Rather than say he would move to the federal system, he said he would select them like worker’s comp commissioners — the governor nominates, and the full Senate confirms. In other words, the federal system.
  • “We’d be so much further along as a state,” he said, if we fully implemented Home Rule — by which he meant local governments should be run by the folks elected locally to do that, instead of by county legislative delegations and their creatures, such as SPDs.

There was more, but you get the idea. Either that, or you zoned out. Anyway, the idea is RE-form.

So that’s what I know about Tem (short for “Temus“) Miles, who is facing Micah Caskey in the runoff on June 28.

Micah Caskey, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Micah Caskey

Micah Caskey

The Caskeys and the Warthens have some common history, although it’s from before my time. Remember when I mentioned that my mother was writing her childhood memories, and I was typing them and creating a blog for them? Well she made prominent mention of “Hop” Caskey, who was a teacher and coach at Bennettsville High School in the ’40s, and his wife, “Madam.” They were good friends of my mother’s family — they used to buy season tickets together for Tarheel football so they could go see Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice play.

"Madam" and "Hop" Caskey

“Madam” and “Hop” Caskey

Well, those were Micah Caskey’s great-grandparents. I was happy to be able to share with him recently a picture of them that he’d never seen before. By the way, the photographer in the foreground is Jimmy Covington, who’s been a fixture in Columbia media circles for decades. He was at BHS with my Mom.

Still, I’d never met him until back in March, when he filed to run for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. We had a wide-ranging conversation about values and policies. Unfortunately, if I took notes I can’t find them. At the time, my main aim was to find out whether this was a someone I wanted to run against, so I don’t think I took notes at all. I was looking for an overall impression.

And the overall impression was this: I was reluctant to run against him because dang it, not only is he a Marine combat veteran, but it was eerie how many things we agreed on. Of all the things we talked about, there was one thing we sharply differed on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was.

So for blogging purposes, that was a useless interview (aside from getting the photo above). But fortunately you can find out about him at his website. He lives in Springdale, and he’s an assistant solicitor in the 11th Circuit solicitor’s office (the one Rick Hubbard and Candice Lively are competing to run). I asked him why he didn’t just run for solicitor, and he said others seeking the office had more experience than he did.

The son of a locksmith, he’s the product of Lexington 2 schools and the University of Florida. He describes his military service thusly:

After college, Micah spent the next several years on active duty in the Marine Corps—rising to the rank of Captain. Micah commanded both company and platoon-sized units during his two combat tours of duty in Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. Later, in 2009, Micah left law school for a year to continue his service to the country. It was during that year that he commanded a small team of specialized Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He obtained his law degree from USC, plus a master’s in international business from the Darla Moore School. He worked as a management consultant in the oil and gas industry for awhile before joining the solicitor’s office.

Here are the issues he’s running on (which are pretty similar to the ones his runoff opponent, Tem Miles, cites):

  • I want to get government working for us. America is at its best when individuals and private businesses are pursuing life, liberty, and happiness — not when wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape.
  • I’ll fight to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges. I’ll work for meaningful reforms that innovate the way our state government functions. We need accountability and transparency.
  • I will be a voice for public safety. Last October, when the floods came, our first responders answered the call. I’ll help ensure we are ready for the unexpected.
  • I’ll fight to ensure that South Carolina continues to be a friendly place for our military to call home. As a veteran, I know what it means to serve. I want South Carolina to remain a magnet for our military, our servicemembers, and our veterans.

That’s all from his website. One thing you won’t find there (or on his opponent’s site, either) are a lot of details about how he would accomplish the above. He says he’s following political advice on that, which runs against the grain because “I want to just tell people what I think about everything.” But he realizes that unless he has an hour to get into the nuances and layers of each position with each voter, it’s easy to be misunderstood when you get into specifics.MicahCaskey_Logo_v02

(I nodded when he said that. As you know, I am no fan of campaign promises. Tell people who you are, describe your experience and your overall interests in running. But don’t say exactly what you’re going to do, because you don’t know what you’ll be dealing with in office, and you don’t want to trapped by promises into doing something that turns out to be dumb under the circumstances.)

“Taking absolutist positions isn’t useful” because “I’ve seen how layered and complicated things can be.” To take one buzzphrase, he mentions “limited government.”

“What does that mean?” he asks. He prefers to say he likes “smart government,” but even there, you have to do a lot of explaining. For an example, he says, he’d do away with having to go to “15 different offices to start a small business.”

Bottom line,”I think I’m a common-sense candidate, a pragmatist.” He notes that someone called him a “consensus candidate,” a guy who would work with anyone from anywhere on the political spectrum who would help pass sensible legislation.

He accepts service on that.

Being about the age of my kids, he has run on the slogan of “A New Generation of Leadership.” That seems to have served him well over the much-older Bill Banning and Billy Oswald.

Now, he’s up against a contemporary and fellow attorney, Tem Miles. On June 28, GOP runoff voters will decide which young man they want representing them in this relatively new century.

Any last thoughts to share on S.C. primaries?

I was on a bit of a Soma holiday over the weekend, taking muscle relaxers and pain pills — which worked wonderfully, to the point that I’ve stopped the pain pills. (If you’ll recall, I thought that I’d rebroken the ribs I broke kickboxing years ago — the intensity of the pain was very familiar — but apparently I’d just “pulled something.”)

So I didn’t really focus on Saturday’s vote the way I normally would.

But even had I been in top form, I don’t think there would have been much to say.

I mean, we knew Hillary needed to do really well here, and she definitely did that. It’s kind of like having a forecast for rain, and sure enough, you get a couple of inches of it. What’s there to say?

Well, here’s one thing: S.C. Republicans used to have the reputation of choosing presidents — or at least nominees. But they’ve utterly failed to do so the last two times now. (That is to say, they may — shudder — have chosen the nominee, but not the next president.)

But S.C. Democrats have chosen the eventual winner the last two times they’ve had contested primaries. Does that mean anything? I have no idea.

Bryan pointed me to this NYT graphic of SC exit poll results. Maybe you’ll see something that inspires you.

Me, I’m sort of moving on to see what happens tomorrow

Anybody at all excited about SC Democratic primary?

I asked sort of the same question last week about the GOP contest. But this week it feels even more appropriate.

The Democratic primary is so low-energy that I’d be surprised if I get comments exceeding single digits on this post.

We know, or think we know, it’s going to be relatively low turnout.

Bernie is blowing SC off, and Bernie has been the only source of excitement on the Democratic side.

The campaign has seemed relatively invisible — probably because the one candidate actually running here can only be so many places at once. But it may also be because I’m a white guy who voted last week — if you’re not a black Democrat, that Hillary isn’t trying to seek you out.

Those black Democrats aren’t going to get as excited as they did in 2008, no matter what she says or does.

In fact, probably the one person who has any adrenaline going at all is Hillary Clinton herself, who has to win big here, or else. And that adrenaline probably isn’t all that great, since it seems that is going to happen. Although she might occasionally wake up in the middle of the night, filled with unreasoning fear that it won’t happen.

Anyway, is anyone else seeing this differently?


Sound advice from fellow South Carolinian Kathleen Parker

This is from her Facebook feed, not a column:

I wish I could tell you all everything I know about the Republican candidates. I can’t in a public forum, but you’d do well to focus on governors.12190791_10205363608186377_7591590836823279115_n

Governance isn’t easy and it’s crucial to have experience. Be wary of those who run for the Senate only to immediately start running for president and who will do anything to get there, even shut down the government, which ultimately hurts the party. Watch out for anyone waving a Bible. Some live as Christians; others proclaim their Christianity. Re-read “Elmer Gantry.” En fin, experience really does matter, folks. Most important, ask yourself, whom would our military troops most admire and respect because that person may well ask them to march into horror and possible death. Also, think hard about the Supreme Court and what the candidates say about what they’d seek. Speaking for myself, I prefer non-ideological justices who honor the text and original intent but ALSO context, which means attentive to the present as well. Wisdom, restraint, intelligence, courage, strength, a disciplined mind, a light heart – and humiliity. These are the qualities we seek even in our friends, isn’t it?

Amen to all that.

Yes, go for those who have governed and taken it seriously. Such as… And always, at all times, vote for the Grownup.

Should a serious independent vote today, or next week?

As I’ve said so many times before, 2008 was the dream year for an independent: The most moderate candidate won both parties’ nominations. It was the no-lose election for people like me. Having endorsed both in their respective primaries, we endorsed McCain in the general, but just barely. When Obama won, as expected, I was totally fine with it.

This, of course, is the year from hell — not only for us independents, but for real Republicans and, to a certain extent, Democrats. They, and we, are beset by fascists and socialists, and none of us know what to do about it.


At least Trump’s name was last. That will lose him a FEW votes…

So, what should a thoughtful, serious independent who truly cares about the country, who wants to avert disaster (or at least fight an honorable rear-guard action), do — vote today, or next week?

I voted today, and persuaded my wife to do the same. I’ve contacted my kids — the ones who live in this country — and simply reminded them that unless they’re voting next week, to remember to do so today.

For myself, I just feel like a vote in the GOP primary does more for the country. I can’t affect who comes in first or second, or even third, but I think every vote really counts in terms of which “mainstream” candidate comes in behind Rubio. And that can affect who drops out next, and who survives to contest with Rubio for the real-Republican mantle. In other words, it can affect who is left when there is only one mainstream candidate left, who can then have the votes to overcome the two nightmares, Trump and Cruz.

But I don’t see my vote, and the votes of my family and friends, having much impact on the Democratic outcome. Either Hillary, the last mainstream candidate on that side, wins by a landslide here, or she’s toast. Either the great mass of people in that primary back her, or it’s essentially over. If she fails to win big here — again — then where can she win? Small groups of voters voting one way or the other just can’t affect that contest.

This is a fairly wobbly argument, I realize. I could knock it down myself without much effort. But the same can be said for every other argument I’ve thought of. So after making the argument to my wife, I didn’t bother my kids with it. I know one of them is for Bernie, and another told me he plans to vote next week, to which I said fine and left him alone. Another has voted today, and another plans to do so later today. My daughter in Thailand did not arrange to vote absentee, to my knowledge.

Basically, I just wanted to make sure that if they don’t definitely plan to vote next week, they should remember to do so today. Not that they’d forget, but you know how parents are, even with adult children — dress warmly, eat right, remember to vote…

The thing is, all the likely scenarios for outcomes here in South Carolina are so unsatisfactory in this nightmare year that I’m not inclined to push my own thinking too hard on anyone.

But I’ve laid out for you the course I’ve chosen. What do y’all think? Is it the best, or least bad, course for a true independent in 2016, or is there a better plan?

Do y’all know any actual Trump supporters?

I was having a conversation with Burl via text today, and he told me about viewing the above interview with South Carolinians, two of whom who have good things to say about Trump.

One of the guys indicated he’ll likely vote for Trump, Mr. Outsider, in the primary, but then vote for Hillary in the general because she’s so experienced and qualified. So… go figure.

Anyway, it got me to thinking…

I still can’t say I know any Trump supporters. No, let me correct that — I know two people who support him rather prominently: Nancy Mace, who’s working for his campaign here in SC, and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, who so improbably endorsed Trump recently.

But I haven’t talked with Nancy in a couple of years — since before her quixotic attempt to run against LIndsey Graham from the right (with a crowd of others). And I haven’t spoken to Henry in a month or so, since well before his endorsement.

So I haven’t been in a position to ask, “Why?” I mean, I read Henry’s public statement of why, but it was definitely in the “Black is white, and up is down” category.

But what about just regular folks: Who, among your neighbors, family members, co-workers or others in your day-to-day life are Trumpites? And how do they explain it to you? Does it make any more sense than the explanation of the guy who’s voting for him in the primary, but Hillary in the general?

Because I remain curious. As you know, I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea that any adult who has ever tried to teach a child how to act around other people could possibly support such a person — and yet, obviously, many who fit that description do. And I’d like to understand that better, because, improbably, this is having an actual effect on the country in which I live, the country I love…

South Carolina’s no-win situation

Mark Stewart wrote this morning that “SC sure did draw the short straw this election cycle! The state has a no-win situation ahead of it.”

Yes, it does. And I’m concerned that once again, as in 2012, we’re going to fail to clarify the contest and point to the eventual winner on the GOP side, which is what we do best. Or what we did best, from 1980 through 2008.

On the Democratic side… Hillary Clinton will still win here (I see no repeat of 2008 there, either), but she’d better beat Bernie by as much as he beat her in New Hampshire. Which… is a mighty tall order. I mean, look at those percentages. So I doubt we’ll restore her to full inevitability.

And on the Republican… Last night, I was thinking, Way to go, Robot Boy, screwing up in that last debate!

But I oversimplify. Kasich had laid the groundwork for victory there. (And yes, coming in first among the real candidates counts as a victory, wherever Trump ended up.)

Whatever the reason, the GOP suffered a serious setback in its quest for a sane alternative. If Rubio could have come in second in New Hampshire after his strong showing in Iowa, the scene would be set for the other “Establishment” candidates to start lining up behind him. That most definitely did not happen — Bush, of all people, beat him!

And there’s just not enough time between now and Feb. 20 for that to get sorted out.

So… Trump will win here, there seems little doubt, and Cruz will be right behind him. Rubio still has a good shot at “winning” third place, although maybe after New Hampshire South Carolina Republicans will remember than they’ve always loved them some Bushes. In any case, even if Rubio finishes a strong third here, it won’t be enough to restore his mo.

I don’t think clarity will emerge until after Super Tuesday, and probably not then. I’d like to see it happen here — I’d love to see us get our touch back here in SC — but it seems unlikely.

But you know, we’ve got 10 days to go. And as we’ve learned over the last few months, anything can happen. Anything